Architects: VAV architects (Pablo Bolinches Vidal, Darragh Breathnach, Daria Leikina)
Collaborators: Veniyana Lemonidi, Matteo Goldoni, Jonathan Russell, Nicholas Dunlop, Tati Leonteva, Alexandra Polyakova, Tereza Scheibova, Anna Podrouzkova, Libor Mládek, David Buhagiar, Aulon Harizaj, Jim Walsh
Completion year: 2012
Area: 7 sqm
Photography: VAV & Jonathan Russell
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Light to dark to light our senses soar. In the northern hemisphere, summer is a time of perpetual brightness. The beauty of this phenomenon and indeed its magnificence becomes lost as people immersed in their daily endeavour’s struggle to cope with a world encapsulated in constant light… Constant daylight brings with it a sense of destabilisation and disfunctionality as the body’s mechanism is thrown out of its natural evolutionary 24 hour cycle… Where does day end and night begin? Time’s motion, the clock and even the earth’s very orbit around the sun are rendered irrelevant. Daylight reigns supreme in a land of permanent sunlight.
We wanted the pavilion to serve a duality of purpose. Not only should it be a place of retreat from the sun’s overpowering intrusiveness but a place where light and its impact is understood, appreciated and respected. Our pavilion would become a nirvana of black darkness wherein encompassed and isolated, people would question their very relationship with the sun, and how their lives might function within this environment.
Viewed from a distance, the triangular form’s yellow luminosity welcomes you invitingly and enticingly as you walk across the plaza. Its shape glistening in the sun cannot but attract and lure for further exploration. Exteriorly its shape acts as a natural sundial and the passage of the day is captured and mapped as its shadows are projected around the structure. While time’s motion is never immediately evident by observing the sun’s position in the sky, this structure serves as a user friendly clock. In early morning and late evening, sharp elongated 80 meter shadows are projected right across the plaza towards the entrance as people come and go. The bright luminous yellow reflects the industrial surrounding of the site and adds extra drama to this strange form sitting silently, waiting to be discovered.
On approaching the pavilion you are exposed to the bright incessant and relentless northern sun. You pull back on one of its outer walls and it slides open quietly on its hidden wheels. It opens just enough to allow you to enter and reveals an undiscovered hidden utopia inside. Stealthily you enter this realm and the door closes firmly behind you. As you enter the pavilion you become lost in a womb of sheer blackness. Your eyes adjust slowly as you acclimatize to this surreal inviting darkness and as you feel the gentle waft of cool air brush your skin, you realise you are in a magical world. An air of tranquil relaxation invades all senses.
You find yourself in a tall narrow space, enticing you inward and onwards. A small bench at the end of the pavilion bids you come forward. The space here inverts on itself and transforms into a low wide environ. With an air of expectation you walk down slowly into it. You take the seat. Your eyes now fully adjusted to the darkness, you observe the intense streaks of light in the darkness, shape changing, mood altering, atmosphere inducing. Comfortable in the tranquil surroundings you sit totally motionless and calm. You wait in tranquil darkness unperturbed, totally at ease in your environment. More surprises now follow. Reclining backwards on your seat, you exert pressure on the wall and instantaneously the hinged wall opens up and a new vista emerges. Natural light comes pouring in. Once again your eyes acclimatise, albeit slowly, to the sudden incoming torrent of light and you are greeted with a framed view of the daylight sky above.
Returning once more to an erect seated position, a hidden counterweight automatically closes the wall and complete darkness once more engulfs. Whilst seated in the comfort and solitude of the darkness, other curious travellers embark on this journey of light you have recently experienced… Witnessing their voyage, you observe a ghostlike silhouette emerging before you. A new inquisitive explorer, probing and savouring the experience, walks silently and carefully onward and forward. You observe their every step, relishing their sensations and sharing their emotions… Momentarily you are blinded by their entrance and left to guess who approaches. You become fixated on their form, their movements; there smells, their very essence and reactions. Recognition of their identity only becoming apparent, when they are in your immediate view and with eyes adjusted you are capable of identification.
With reluctance you arise from your seat and leave the space. You depart, enlightened, nourished and enriched by the experience. You venture forth once more into the beckoning daylight with a new appreciation of light and darkness. All energy replenished by this interlude and reinivigorated, you confront the intense sun once more.